Deference and Handling the Truth with Leaders

This is an interesting commentary on communication with and among leaders.

Dangers of Deference:Ron Ashkenas, HBR:

My thoughts…

For many years I worked in the private sector where this dynamic was very evident. The degree of deference present seemed to be very much tied to the discipline of the department. For example, engineers, accounting, and finance professionals seem to expect and demonstrate more deference than those in marketing, customer service and parts of HR. Perhaps part of the dynamic is tied to basic personality and values. Perhaps people with a “realistic” orientation tend to show more deference to authority than “influencing” and “investigative” types.

In recent years, I have done more work with the federal government. My observation is that private sector levels of deference hardly even register compared with the levels shown in the federal government. Once I saw the inside of the beast I understood the origin of the stereotypical caricature of government worker. It is darn hard for a person to remain engaged in an environment in which one’s input can have so little impact, and where mid-level managers are emotionally and psychologically distant. In some of the environments I have seen, actual engagement seems to be either downright heroic or naïve.

It is also possible that my view of the government is biased. After all, I was there as a consultant to help them improve the organizational climate, but that it also why I was brought in to private sector employers.